Judges 14:18
And the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion? and he said to them, If you had not plowed with my heifer, you had not found out my riddle.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) What is sweeter than honey?—Their answer is given in the same rhythmical form as the riddle itself.

If ye had not plowed with my heifer.—Many commentators, following Rabbi Levi Ben Gershom, read in this proverbial phrase an implication that Samson suspected his wife of adultery; but there is no sufficient reason for this view.

Jdg 14:18-19. If ye had not, &c. — If you had not employed my wife to find it out, as men plough up the ground with a heifer, thereby discovering its hidden parts; he calls her heifer, because she was joined with him in the same yoke. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him — Though he had constant strength and courage, yet that was exceedingly increased upon special occasions, by the extraordinary influences of God’s Spirit. To Ashkelon — Either to the territory, or to the city itself, where he had both strength and courage enough to attempt what follows; and upon the doing hereof they were doubtless struck with such terror, that every one sought only to preserve himself, and none durst pursue him. This action of Samson could neither be commended nor justified, had he not been actuated by a divine impulse, in order to punish the Philistines, according to God’s intention. God made use of him, as the judge does of the executioner, to punish those that merit and are condemned to suffer punishment. And took their spoil — This plainly shows the thirty sheets, and thirty changes of raiment, mentioned Jdg 14:13, mean only thirty suits of apparel, such as men commonly wore. His anger was kindled — For the treachery of his wife and companions; and he went up to his father’s house — Without his wife. It would be well for us, if the unkindnesses we meet with from the world, and our disappointments therein, had this good effect upon us, to oblige us to return by faith and prayer to our heavenly Father’s house.14:10-20 Samson's riddle literally meant no more than that he had got honey, for food and for pleasure, from the lion, which in its strength and fury was ready to devour him. But the victory of Christ over Satan, by means of his humiliation, agonies, and death, and the exaltation that followed to him, with the glory thence to the Father, and spiritual advantages to his people, seem directly alluded to. And even death, that devouring monster, being robbed of his sting, and stripped of his horror, forwards the soul to the realms of bliss. In these and other senses, out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the strong, sweetness. Samson's companions obliged his wife to get the explanation from him. A worldly wife, or a worldly friend, is to a godly man as an enemy in the camp, who will watch every opportunity to betray him. No union can be comfortable or lasting, where secrets cannot be intrusted, without danger of being divulged. Satan, in his temptations, could not do us the mischief he does, if he did not plough with the heifer of our corrupt nature. His chief advantage against us arises from his correspondence with our deceitful hearts and inbred lusts. This proved an occasion of weaning Samson from his new relations. It were well for us, if the unkindness we meet with from the world, and our disappointments in it, obliged us by faith and prayer to return to our heavenly Father's house, and to rest there. See how little confidence is to be put in man. Whatever pretence of friendship may be made, a real Philistine will soon be weary of a true Israelite.They try to give the answer in a way to make it appear that they had guessed it. Samson saw at once that she had betrayed him. He lets them know in a speech, which was of the nature of a riddle, that he had discovered the treachery. 18. If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle—a metaphor borrowed from agricultural pursuits, in which not only oxen but cows and heifers were, and continue to be, employed in dragging the plough. Divested of metaphor, the meaning is taken by some in a criminal sense, but probably means no more than that they had resorted to the aid of his wife—an unworthy expedient, which might have been deemed by a man of less noble spirit and generosity as releasing him from the obligation to fulfil his bargain. If you had not employed my wife to find it out, as men plough up the ground with a heifer, thereby discovering its hidden parts: he calls her

heifer, either because he now suspected her wantonness and too much familiarity with that friend which she afterwards married; or because she was joined with him in the same yoke; or rather, because they used such in ploughing. And the men of the city said unto him, on the seventh day, before the sun went down,.... And so soon, enough to free them from the obligation they otherwise would have been under, to have given him the sheets and changes of raiment agreed unto:

what is sweeter than honey? nothing, at least that was known, sugar not being invented. Julian the emperor (n), in commendation of figs, shows, from various authors, that nothing is sweeter than they, excepting honey:

and what is stronger than a lion? no creature is, it is the strongest among beasts, Proverbs 30:30. Homer (o) gives the epithet of strong to a lion:

and he said unto them, if ye had not ploughed with my heifer; meaning his wife, whom he compares to an heifer, young, wanton, and unaccustomed to the yoke (p); and by "ploughing" with her, he alludes to such creatures being employed therein, making use of her to get the secret out of him, and then plying her closely to obtain it from her; and this diligent application and search of theirs, by this means to inform themselves, was like ploughing up ground; they got a discovery of that which before lay hid, and without which they could never have had the knowledge of, as he adds:

ye had not found out my riddle; the explanation of it. Ben Gersome and Abarbinel interpret ploughing of committing adultery with her; in which sense the phrase is used by Greek and Latin writers (q); but the first sense is best, for it is not said, "ploughed my heifer", but with her.

(n) Opera, par. 9. epist. 24. (o) Odyss. 4. ver. 336. (p) Vid. Horat. Carmin, l. 2. ode 5. Graja. "Juvenca venit". Ovid. Ephesians 5. ver. 117. (q) Vid. Bochart. Hierozoic par. 1. l. 2. c. 41. col. 406.

And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, {k} If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

(k) If you had not used the help of my wife.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. before the sun went down] lit. went in. But the word for sun (ḥeres) is rare and poetical, and it has the accus. ending which denotes motion towards. A slight correction proposed by Stade gives the right sense: before he went into the chamber, the same word as in Jdg 15:1. They wait till the last moment before the wedding was completed.Verse 18. - The men of the city - the same as were spoken of in ver. 11 as Samson's companions. Before the sun went down - just in time, therefore, to save the wager, as defined in ver. 12. This is the uncommon word for the sun used also in Judges 8:13, where see note. What is sweeter, etc. They put their answer in a form to make it seem as if they had guessed the riddle; but Samson instantly perceived his wife's treachery, and showed that he did so by quoting the proverb of plowing with another person s heifer. They had not used their own wit to find out the riddle, but had learnt the secret at Samson's cost, through his wife. He insinuates that had they acted fairly he would have won the wager. At the wedding feast Samson said to the guests, "I will give you a riddle. If you show it to me during the seven days of the meal (the wedding festival), and guess it, I will give you thirty sedinim (σινδόνες, tunicae, i.e., clothes worn next to the skin) and thirty changes of garments (costly dresses, that were frequently changed: see at Genesis 45:22); but if ye cannot show it to me, ye shall give me the same number of garments." The custom or proposing riddles at banquets by way of entertainment is also to be met with among the ancient Grecians. (For proofs from Athenaeus, Pollux, Gellius, see Bochart, Hieroz. P. ii. l. ii. c. 12; and K. O. Mller, Dorier, ii. p. 392). As the guests consented to this proposal, Samson gave them the following riddle (Judges 14:14): "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." This riddle they could not show, i.e., solve, for three days. That is to say, they occupied themselves for three days in trying to find the solution; after that they let the matter rest until the appointed term was drawing near.
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